Tuesday, November 2, 2010

3998 BBY - 3996 BBY: The Fall of Exar Kun (BTC 347)

Exar Kun has no relation to the Sith Empire, nor does he connect his Sith linage to the emperor of the ‘True Sith Empire’. This much was established in the TOR timeline The Fall of Exar Kun. This, the tenth timeline in the series, and set in BTC 347, tells the story of Exar Kun’s fall from the lightside of the Force and his rise to the mantle of Dark Lord of the Sith. The events contained in this timeline are not new to us, as most of this history we are already familiar with in our examinations of The Dark Lords of the Sith and The Sith War.

Though not much new is revealed in the way of history, there were certain aspects from this piece I found remarkable.

At the start of the timeline an interesting threesome of Jedi are depicted. Part of the Jedi council, these three were seen discussing amongst each other what to do about Kun’s newfound interest in all things Sith. I wonder who these three are. What is more, the older woman with the short white hair looked interesting, as she reminded me of a grandmother type figure. I liked that an old woman was included as part of the council, and in doing so, the writers at TOR placed aged women in a positive light. When we come across an old woman in Star Wars she seems to fit into the character type of crafty old hag (Kreia) or evil witch (Queen Amanoa). If a woman is on the council she tends to be young and nubile (Adi Gallia), or if she is older, she is an alien (Yaddle). Old women in literature seem to get a poor presentation. It seems that old stereotypes die hard. If an old woman has power – any kind of power – she must necessarily be evil, or a witch, or out to destabilize the power structures of men. And if she is knowledgeable or powerful or good (Jocasta Nu) she must be placed somewhere where she can’t really have input on any important decisions. Needless to say, it still seems like old woman with power can’t be trusted – even in the Star Wars universe. Kudos to the writers at TOR for including an old woman on the council.

Old women aside, there were some events and people in this timeline that were notably absent; namely, Nomi Sunrider and the circumstances surrounding her and Ulic. As Master Gnost-Dural says: “Qel-Droma abandoned the darkside and betrayed Exar Kun”. This description is not accurate, as we know that it was Ulic’s epic confrontation with Nomi, and his subsequent stripping of the Force, that coloured his relationship with Kun. I found it remarkable that the Sever Force ability perpetrated by Sunrider was not mentioned at all. If I were to hazard a guess at this, I think on the surface the writers did not want to include this detail so as to not create speculation that this might be an ability players may have in-game. But who knows? It could be a stun ability used by the Jedi Wizard. Still, I was a little disappointed that this, the most powerful lightside attack, was glossed over. As stated by Master Odann-Urr it is the most devastating attack in the entire arsenal of Force powers, both light and dark.

My buddy and I had a discussion about the Sever Force ability a few weeks back. Knowing how powerful the ability is, I wondered why more Jedi did not use this spell on darksiders. It was my stance in this discussion that the Jedi should use it more often. Jedi are absolutists, I argued, and since they are absolutists they must necessarily see it as their mission to rid the universe of the darkside. Since Severing the Force does not kill the person the ability is enacted upon it is the ultimate weapon of the light – respecting the sanctity of life, all the while stripping those of power who use it selfishly and irresponsibly and who endanger innocent lives. Why wouldn’t the Jedi use this ability all the time?

My friend countered with a wise and prudent point. He said: “Sever Force is the most powerful ability the Force has to offer – as a matter of fact, it’s absolute power – and absolute power corrupts absolutely. If used too often and too recklessly, this power of the light could quickly lead a noble Jedi with the best intentions down the dark path. It’s a terrifying ability, not because of what it does to the darksider on the wrong end of the spell, but because of what it does to the Jedi who enacts it”.

His answer gave me pause, and helped me understand why the Jedi are so weary of this capability. In my examinations of Star Wars history thus far, this power has been used on two occasions (Sunrider and the Jedi Exile), and at the time I was examining this material I felt the warnings by Master Odan-Urr were too cautious: “To block a Jedi from the Force—even a Dark Jedi—is a terrible thing." I couldn’t understand his warning, and I didn’t understand why it was such a terrible thing. I think I do now.

As far as timelines from SWTOR go, The Fall of Exar Kun was interesting, but it didn’t reveal much surrounding the figure of the Sith emperor, except to say that the Sith spirits that supported Kun don’t seem to support the emperor.

One can speculate as to why the writers at Bioware would include this timeline which does not reveal much historically, and on its surface, does not seem to further the plot of the TOR story in too great a capacity. Perhaps Kun appears in the game as a foil to the Sith emperor – a path a “Gray Jedi” could explore while aligned with the Republic? Maybe he is a raid Boss? Maybe he is a quest giver? Like I said, we can speculate as to why this timeline is important to the game, but until the game’s release all discussion surrounding this lays on the pitch of supposition.

Again, I think the Exar Kun timeline is interesting, not because of what it reveals, but because of what has not been mentioned in TOR’s timelines to date; namely, any consideration for the events of KOTOR 2 and the Jedi Exile. Granted, Malachor V was mentioned in the previous timeline, but not in any great detail, and the story of the Jedi Exile’s contribution to galactic history seems to be going ignored. Many questions arise from this absence. What did the Sith triumvirate have to do with the Sith emperor, if anything? (and if nothing, then why not mention the negative relation as in Kun’s timeline?)

I know a number of fans from the SWTOR forum pages have become fairly hot and bothered over this perceived snub on the part of Bioware regarding Obsidian’s contributions to the Star Wars mythos and its work on KOTOR 2. And even though I find their approach to discussing this lack of KOTOR 2 material aggressive, arrogant, combative, and ultimately disrespectful of other people willing to engage with them on this topic, their questions and inquiries are relevant. Why has Bioware seemed to have ignored the events of KOTOR 2? This is a valid question.

Rob Chestney attempted to address this question on the SWTOR forums, basically saying ‘the events of KOTOR 2 happened behind the scenes and most people in the galaxy were unaware of the events of the (Dark) war’. He goes on to say that he thought a timeline on the events of the Dark War were important, but in the context of the timeline series would confuse players. This answer, I think, only further irritated players and fans of the KOTOR franchise, and even though I believe Chestney was being genuine in his answer to the community, he response seemed to be somewhat dismissive of the communities concerns.

I myself have a few problems with this statement. Firstly, calling the near complete destruction of the Jedi Order by the hands of Nihilus a ‘historical footnote’ is problematic at best. Secondly, in the story of KOTOR 2 there is a historian present by the name of Mical. One would think a historian contained within the KOTOR 2 story would record these events to keep for posterity. What is more, the narrator of these timelines, Master Gnost-Dural, is himself a historian, and taking his character into consideration, one would think he would have uncovered the events of the Dark War, and he most likely would want to address the almost complete destruction of the Jedi Order at the hands of the Sith. For an in-depth look at fans reactions to Chestney’s statement, check out the Star Wars discussion forums at www.swtor.com

Ultimately I wish that the developers at Bioware would have taken the time to address the important events of the KOTOR 2 story, and not worry about ‘confusing’ me. I’m a smart lad, as are all the other fans on the swtor forums – we can connect the dots.

For my next post I’m going to look at JJM’s fifth installment of the Lost Tribe of the Sith series: Purgatory. Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.

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